(Doctor’s Note: This letter deals with discussion of suicide.)
Dear Dr NerdLove,
I’m a 30 year old guy who is in his first real relationship. I had essentially given up the idea of ever having a relationship, and was honestly quite happy with my “forever alone” status. I’m a semi-professional sportsman and my only other experience with dating was with a teammate when I was 21. We were both so far in the closet we could have been on a ship with Prince Caspian, so it didn’t end well.
Yet now I seem to be in a relationship with a nice, sweet, well adjusted guy who is a few years younger than me and… likes me. Z is attracted to me. Thinks I’m funny. Doesn’t care that I am essentially a hot mess who spends way too much time with his foam roller and is never going to make the major leagues.
And I don’t know what to do about it. I have come out in a low-key way, and although I’m not waving a rainbow flag, everyone in my team knows I’m gay and is okay with it. Particularly when I wasn’t seeing anyone.
I don’t know how to be a boyfriend. I don’t even know if I’m attracted to Z, or if I’m just attracted to the fact he wants me. (I’m not conventionally attractive, being somehow both bald and effeminate.)
I know Z’s not my type, I know the sex hasn’t been great, but he’s inexperienced and I always seem to wind up trying to sleep with him on match days, so if it doesn’t get done quickly I get agonizing cramps in several major muscle groups because fucking after hours of intense exercise is not as easy as it should be.
And there’s a complication.
I recently went on my first tour since Z and I became Facebook official. We talked beforehand and agreed that I would get a tour pass – but he didn’t want to hear about it. What goes on tour stays on tour. (It’s the sporting equivalent of what happens in Vegas, and is honestly the way about half the pro sportsmen I know manage their love lives.)
On tour I met A, and over the course of a week we hooked up. When I first hooked up with him I didn’t realise his actual age – 19. To my shame, I didn’t call a halt to it when I found out how young he was. I remembered myself at 21 and tried to be the kind of person I would have wanted.
What followed was three weeks of this teenager messaging me, trying to get me to tell him I loved him. I was friendly, I was supportive, I told him he didn’t need to be afraid of coming out, that although we lived on opposite sides of the world I would be there for him as much as I could.
Four days before I flew home A killed himself.
I found out about it because immediately prior he messaged me saying he loved me, and after a day and several missed messages, when I called him his mother answered.
I fell apart. I don’t even remember my last game, or getting to the airport. There was no one I could talk to, because the team prefer their token homo not to mention his sexuality, and because A hadn’t told anyone he liked guys.
And I’ve come back to not being able to tell Z what happened. It’s our agreement, what goes on tour stays on tour – only dead boys follow you home so much more than living ones.
I’m seeing a counselor but due to expense, I can’t keep it up. I also can’t keep something else up, which is making Z think I don’t want him anymore. Instead I’m making excuses and getting more and more hyperactive whenever I see him to hide the fact that I am completely fucked up here – I’m out of my depth in this relationship, and I’m hurting so bad for a boy I cared for and, to be frank, a boy I could so easily have been.
Should I just break up with Z – who deserves better – and go back to my comfortable life of being alone? Should I tell him what happened, even if he doesn’t want to hear? Should I keep trying to pick myself up, going to the counseling I can’t afford, and hoping that as time goes by I’ll feel more human? But even if I do… I still won’t have any idea how to function in this relationship.
Dare I say it, Dr NerdLove, you’re my only hope?
Didn’t Come Home